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12 Angry Men is a very well made black and white film written by Reginald Rose and produced by Reginald Rose and Henry Fonda. The basic plot of the movie is about a jury of twelve men who consider a case together to decide upon the redemption or fate of a young boy who supposedly murdered his father. Several elements in the production of the movie are subtle yet obvious, and are important factors which help cultivate a deeper drama. Things such as camera angles, the observation of facial features, physical objects in the room the jury is located in, and also the setting of the story all add to the dynamics in the film. Specifically, the producers use the murder weapon and the weather to build and drop tension during the intense exploration of the trial.
The murder weapon first appears in the movie when one of the men brings the knife into question. As the jurors determine the knife’s importance, the tension in the room is raised slightly when the man handling the knife stabs the table with it. The camera angle at this second is concentrated on the knife as it grinds into the wooden table. Tension is increased also when another juror shows that he was able to easily acquire the same type of knife. Again, he slams it into the table, all while the room erupts into loud quarrels. This is the producers’ way of adding a dynamic element to the movie, and it works well.
The filmmakers use the knife again later when a different man initiates the topic of how the knife wound was made. One of the men to plead guilty offered to give a demonstration on one of the men claiming not guilty. As this man holds up the knife pretending to be the boy stabbing his father, tension swells very intensely. All the men are silent and staring wide-eyed at the performers. The man raises the knife like he is going to kill his phony adversary, the other men protest condemningly. The producers’ plan to increase the tension in this way is definitely ingenious.
Along with a well-used symbol to create tension in their film, the moviemakers use a small detail such as the weather to build tension. At the beginning of the story, it is very hot and humid. All the men seem to sweat. When the jurors start their debate, the men appear agitated and not really logical and seem to want to get over and done with their job of figuring out a verdict. They seem distracted, a probable result of the weather during the commencement of their analysis. Tension already exists between the men. The producers want it to seem this way maybe because each man secretly has his own opinion and do not want the others to know because they all just want the debate to be finished. The trial discussion continues. A few minutes after the votes become six to six, it starts to downpour. This is the filmmakers’ way of changing the tension once again. Since the early heat symbolizes distraction and tension, the rain symbolizes logical reasoning and less tension. More men realize that the final decision of the jury determines the fate of a young boy.
In conclusion, filmmakers Reginald Rose and Henry Fonda created a wonderfully designed movie. Their contrast with different elements to draw attention to tension is finely crafted. These hints are noticeable only slightly, and to be able to understand what the producers were thinking while making the film is enthralling. The producers’ use of a small detail like weather to provide tension changes is a good use of setting. Their use of important objects like the killing knife is intelligent.
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